Sunday, September 06, 2009

"WAKE UP": A Sunday Morning Reflection on the Last Scene from School Daze

I think I was in sixth grade when Spike Lee’s film School Daze came out around 1988. I vividly remember reenacting, with as much precision as I could muster, the steps of the “Brothers of A-Phi-A”, not knowing what a “fraternity” was. Ironically enough I ended up joining that most distinct brotherhood of Alpha Phi Alpha once I went to college (shout out my bros from Zeta Alpha Chapter). What I found most perplexing about the movie, aside from filling my head with notions of the social and intellectual promise of higher education, was trying to figure out what the last scene in the movie meant. “Wake up? Huh? What does that have to do with anything,” I wondered.

As a twelve-year-old kid I didn’t know…even when I got to high school I still did not understand what Spike’s vision was for the last scene of the movie. In it, just as the sun breaks through the clouds rising over the eastern sky, Laurence Fishburne’s character, “Dap” rings a historic bell at the center of campus and screams “WAKE UP!” several times. One by one, all the characters in the film awaken from their various slumbers and come to the central campus quadrangle, aided by the frenzied and insistent “Dap” to open their eyes.

It really wasn’t until I got to college that I started to understand what Spike was trying to capture. Often times, I think we as an audience don’t catch what Spike is doing until well after his films have left the theater, because they usually don’t stay long if they make it there at all (go check out Bamboozled again if you haven’t in a while).

As I engaged in my Sunday morning multitasking ritual, of watching CBS’s “Sunday Morning” with Charles Osgood (which is celebrating thirty years), ESPN’s “Sports Reporters” and simultaneously reading several newspapers both hard copy and several via my iPhone (check out the new NPR app), I came across several op-ed pieces on right wing opposition to President Obama’s speech this Tuesday to school age children. Then too, I read about Van Jones, Obama’s “Green Jobs” advisor resigning under the pressure from recent controversy over past statements he allegedly made about 9/11 and Republicans. The most outrageous thing I read was some pastor in Arizona that said President Obama should die. Huh? (again).

As I think back over these so called news headlines I just shake my head at how the intersection of race, politics, and religion is coming together, as they usually do, to keep this country back. Back from progress; back from addressing its history, or just keeping it back far enough that we continue to NOT have a political discourse. What we are left with is a bunch of “I’m right and your wrong” mentalities where neither side is situated, nor wants, to do what is best for the citizenry and the republic as a whole.

President Obama’s speech to school age youth is about them staying in school, his attempt at addressing an alarming national drop out rate and even scarier international educational rankings. Regardless, conservatives are crying fowl, such as Florida Republican chairman Jim Greer, who called Obama’s speech an attempt to use "our children to spread liberal propaganda" and "President Obama's socialist ideology."

The shocking thing is not that he and others are voicing such concerns; it is that they genuinely believe this moronic nonsense. I seriously doubt Greer or others like him even know what socialism is. I wonder do they think about socialism when they have to dial 911 or when pay taxes to help fund their local zoos or libraries?

George Fredrickson’s classic historical text, The Black Image in the White Mind, is playing out all over again. His analysis was about how America subjugated progressive thought during early decades of the twentieth century, rooted in the systematic ideology of racism and white privilege. In a more contemporary era, the political climate lends itself to embarking on a neo-McCarthyism Era where fear and ignorance are the governing forces. More than ever folk need to know American history, or be doomed to repeat it.

It is ironic that the same flag waving, bible thumping, so called "nationalists" who voted for the imperial president, George W. Bush (twice) said not a word when Bush went into classrooms. In fact, he was in a classroom when the 9/11 terroist attacks occurred. To be fair, however, Democrats did voice some concern about his father, President George H.W. Bush’s speech in the 1980s, but it was a far cry from parents declaring their “rights” to withhold their children from school because of a speech about staying in school given by the elected leader of our nation. Some have even ventured to say that Obama is playing on the "cult of personality". If that be the case how do you explain "The Great Communicator" President Ronald Reagan? His entire political career was a "how to" book on the cult of personality.

President Obama is just seeing the beginning of the storm that he will have to endure. I just hope that those persons of good will, no matter what the political affiliation, religion, or ethnic background will act responsibly for the sake of future generations. “One of the great liabilities of history,” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., reminds us, “is that too many people fail to remain awake through a great periods of social change.”

Hopefully we each can channel our inner “Daps” to ring the school bell and cry out “WAKE UP!” to those of us who are sound asleep warmed by the blankets of indifference and comforted by the pillows of appalling silence.


D Tre said...

While I agree that this nation is at a very critical state, I would argue that the discomfort that we are feeling at this very moment is good for business and good for the future. The strategy of the OBama media machine is doing more for highlighting ignorance in high places than any one person ever could. This discomfort is what's needed to pull us from where we were to where we are going.

the uppity negro said...

I will admit that Van Jones resigning does not send a good message to the strength of the Obama administration. It almost boils down to the fact that if Glenn Beck et. al. can raise enough sand about someone who no one was really aware of in certain circles, then what does does that say about the strength of the administration? Seriously, I hope this doesn't act like a house of cards.

That being said, yes, it's been time that we wake up from our sleep and smell the morning coffee. As Joe Clark would say "the enemy is at the gates" and it's time to call a Code 10

Anonymous said...

We all can wake up if we simply get back to the Lost Art of Critical Thinking.

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